Florida Considers Banning Social Media Use in Schools

A new bill has been approved by the Florida Legislature and is headed to the governor’s office for his signature. If signed into law, the bill will bring significant changes to the way students use their mobile phones in K-12 public schools. The legislation, known as HB 379 “Technology in K-12 Public Schools,” prohibits students from using social media while connected to school district internet access and requires social media safety to be taught to older students.

Most students have cell phones with them while in school, and this new law would require teachers to designate a specific area for students to store their phones during instructional time. Educators agree that students must be educated on how to use the tool properly to avoid potential harm. Palm Beach County middle school teacher Karen Epstein believes that reinforcing internet and social media safety is essential for students to use them properly. The new law will support, and require, social media safety lessons for middle and high school students, covering topics such as mental health, security, human trafficking, and cyberbullying.

Tammy Fields, the director of the Palm Beach County Youth Services department, points out that while there are some positive uses for social media, she sees the problems it can cause every day. Fields notes, “I don’t think kids and some adults understand how long something is going to be on the internet. Once it’s there, it’s always there.” According to Fields, the main thing students experience online is the bullying aspect, and she believes it’s time for students to learn how to make more informed decisions behind the screen.

The new law will not only ban students from accessing social media while using school district internet but also prohibit cell phone use during instructional time. Exceptions can be made if a teacher gives permission as part of a lesson. Palm Beach County parents, like Scott Borden, always have internet safety at the forefront of their minds. While Borden acknowledges the importance of monitoring his children’s phone use, he also acknowledges the importance of not overstepping boundaries.

Finally, the new law will also completely ban using TikTok on school district-owned devices, through internet access provided by a school district, or as a platform to promote any district school, club, or team. If Governor Ron DeSantis signs the measure into law, it is scheduled to go into effect on July 1. The new legislation seeks to strengthen students’ understanding of social media safety and promote more responsible use to support safer online interactions.

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